Before I started working in healthcare I used to try and avoid taking any pain relievers or
anti-inflammatories. I had the notion that my body would heal on its own and that I was certainly capable of handling some pain. When I started working with Physical Therapists and Athletic Trainers I became aware that this way of thinking might not be the way to take the best care of my body.
There is no question that in most cases the body will heal itself. This is so predictable that we rarely even give it much consideration. We exercise to cause damage to the body such that it will be stimulated to grow stronger - healing! If we have an area that is hurt or painful we often give it time - to heal! Time heals because the body is actively working to recover. Unfortunately, this healing is not always in the best interest of the body.
What I learned from the healthcare providers was that when it comes to an injury, and the body response of rushing healing properties to the injured area, there is sometimes an excessive amount of inflammation and that it actually hinders the healing. In addition to slowing the healing process, the inflammation brings collagen (scar tissue) that can adhere in such a way to become an ongoing problem.
For these reasons it makes sense to consider the use of things that will reduce the inflammation; ice and anti-inflammatories. But over the years I realized that you have to go even further. You have to evaluate how your body is healing - because in reality it is doing it all the time.
Sometimes it is as simple as a strain to your shoulder that is a little irritating but you think it should heal with some time. And over time you have less pain or maybe it only hurts when you do certain activities. So, you take your anti-inflammatories and try to avoid those aggravating activities but your body might now be adapting to lose the ability to do those activities. Maybe you won't be able to raise your arm to the side without arching your back and raising your shoulder - which places the stress of raising your arm onto the spine and compresses the space in the shoulder joint.
It is these types of adaptations, in the movements that you do all the time to live your life, that your body is doing all the time. It is continually becoming better at doing those activities that you do and losing the ability to do the other. And often your body does this so seamlessly that you are not even aware of the change. In fact, you might not even be aware of how your body has shunted blood flow away from a muscle (making it ischemic and painful) until someone touches it and you feel the pain because the nerves have been woken up.
No question, I became a believer in the benefits of anti-inflammatories but as with everything you need to consider far more than just the short-term. Your body doesn't really have the ability to think longevity, that is where you have to use your mind to ensure that you are going in the direction that you want.